The Raising of Lazarus: The God Who Weeps and Suffers with us and for us
John 11:17-57 The Raising of Lazarus (The God Who Weeps and Suffers with us and for us) Introduction: Last week we looked at verses 1-16 and we noted that this passage gives a realistic look at the love God has for us. We saw this new emphasis in the way Jesus loves us. He does not mainly love us in this life by sparing us suffering and death. Jesus loves us mainly by giving us himself and all that God is for us in him. Don’t measure the love of God for you by how much health and wealth and comfort he brings into your life. Measure God’s love for you by how much of himself he shows you. How much of himself he gives you to know and enjoy. (look to the Cross) I said last week that this was a two part study because: although God does allow us to suffer, and often delays in answering our cries, it doesn’t mean that God is heartless, or immune to our suffering and pain. Far from it. Scripture presents us with a God who is not a caricature but a complex character. He is the transcendent God of the universe and yet he is the God who weeps in our weeping, who suffers in our suffering, who is outraged by our pain! He will not idly sit by and watch us be destroyed. Yet here in our passage there are three different people questioning Jesus love: Martha. Verses 20–21: “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary. Verse 32: “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The Mourners. Verses 36–37: Jesus had just wept. “So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Jesus will respond in three different amazing ways to each. 1. The Profound Truth - The God of the Universe is full of hope for our situation. 1. Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off,19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” 1. Commentators agree that Lazarus would have already have died before Jesus was able to reach him regardless. (Lazarus most likely died shortly after the news was delivered to Jesus). But Jesus remains so that by the time he arrives in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. Jewish belief was that a soul hovered over a body for three days waiting to re-enter the body, but once decomposition settled in, the soul would depart forever or at least until the final resurrection. This makes the situation even more dire, because beyond any doubt Lazarus is postmortem. He is beyond the hope of life. 1. Hear Martha’s pain, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 1. Martha, almost sees Jesus’ words about Resurrection as trite words of comfort in regard to her pain. 1. She affirms that Lazarus’s will rise on the last day, identifying herself with the larger hope of Judaism, that on "the last day" there will be the great resurrection of the dead. 2. Martha has an abstract, incorporeal view of God’s work. Whatever Martha means by her affirmation of Jesus, she does not expect that he can do anything to help Lazarus now. But her comment invites Jesus to reveal profound truth about himself. He says, “I am the resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 1. “Jesus’ concern is to divert Martha’s focus from an abstract belief in what takes place on the last day, to a personalized belief in him who alone can provide it. Jesus makes eschatology existential, the future present, hope visible, the then now, the thing a person.” -Bruner 2. Jesus says, everyone who has eternal life and believes in him will never die. But Christians die just like everyone else. Yes, except for when Christian die their death is not an eternal death. It is not final. Jesus has made death for believers a conquered superseded event of minimal duration. The believer, the one who already enjoys resurrection life this side of death, will in some sense never die. Death is not the end for believers in Jesus. 3. Jesus is drawing out Martha’s faith to deeper waters.. really this whole incident is. Jesus is inviting Martha to a deeper understanding with a deeper faith in his person and work which will result in a radical reshaping of her hope. 4. But just because death is no longer an eternal threat to Jesus people - death still pains us. 2. The Strong Emotions and the Strong Power-The God of the Universe Weeps, put is not hopeless in the face of death 1. “When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”35 Jesus wept.36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying? Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” 1. It is interesting to note the different ways that Jesus responds to these two sisters. With Martha, he speaks to her in a god like manner, giving her this theological insight into his person and yet when Jesus sees Mary, he doesn’t do that at all. He doesn’t give her some theological truth to wrestle with, but he mourns with her. He enters into her pain and suffering. 2. How awesome, how comforting, to see and to know that our God identifies with the pain of the world! He is pained by our pain. He weeps with us and for us. 1. The Prophet Isaiah said, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” - Isaiah 63:9 3. Everyone, even Jesus’ followers, seem to think that at this point Jesus has met his match. Jesus, they assume, is overcome with grief like everyone else, he is powerless in the face of death. 1. We are told that when Jesus saw Mary weeping and the Jews weeping, “Jesus groaned within himself.” Theologian, and Bible Commentator, Don Carson, says that everyone interprets this too softly. The language here is that of anger, and great distress. It was a term that was used for horses snorting with rage. 2. But who is Jesus raging at? God, for letting this happen? No. Himself for waiting too long? No. Mary and the Jews for weeping? Probably not. He’s crying too. 4. “Jesus is raging against death, he doesn’t say, ‘look, just get used to it. Everybody dies. That’s the way of the world.’ He doesn’t do that. Jesus is looking at our greatest nightmare - the loss of life, the loss of loved ones and of love - and he is incensed. He’s mad at evil and suffering, and even though he’s God he’s not mad at himself. What does that mean? 5. First, it means that evil and death are the results of sin and not a part of God’s original design. He did not make a world filled with sickness, suffering and death. 6. You might think, ‘if God is that unhappy with the world as it is, why doesn’t he just show up and stop it? Why doesn’t he just appear on the earth and end all evil? But that question reveals a lack of self knowledge. 7. The Bible says- and each of us know this deep down - that so much that is wrong with the world is wrong because of the human heart. So much of the misery of life here on earth is due to selfishness, pride, cruelty, anger, oppression, war, and violence. And that means that if Jesus Christ had come to earth with the sword of God’s wrath against evil, none of us would have been left to tell about it. We all have evil and self-centeredness deep inside us. 8. “However, Jesus did not come with a sword in his hands; he came with nails in his hands. He did not come to bring judgment; he came to bear it. And this passage reveals that. Jesus raising of Lazarus is the final sign that seals Jesus doom. The religious leaders meet together at the end of this chapter resolving that Jesus must be put to death, he is too dangerous. Jesus knew all of this of course. He knew that if he raised Lazarus from the dead, the religious establishment would try to kill him..And so he knew that the only way to raise Lazarus out of the grave was to put himself into the grave. He knew the only way to interrupt Lazarus’s funeral was to summon his own. If he was going to save us from death, he was going to have to go to the cross, and bear the judgment we deserve. That’s why when Jesus approached the tomb, instead of smiling at the prospect of putting on a great show, he was shaking with anger and tears on his cheeks. He knew what it cost him to save us from death. Maybe he was able to feel the jaws of death closing in on him. And yet knowing and experiencing all that, he cried, Lazarus, Come out!” 9. The witnesses said about Jesus, “see how he loved Lazarus”; but really we must behold how he loves us. He became human, mortal, vulnerable, killable - all out of love for us.” - Tim Keller 1. But why did he do it? Why did he suffer for us? 2. “The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like his.” - George MacDonald 3. This story is is the gospel in miniature form. The one’s the Lord loves are sick and yet he delays, for years and years and years, and yet finally he comes and he speaks his truth, about his person and his power about what he is here to do - he is here to raise the dead to life. But he does’t stop there. No, He enters our pain; the man of sorrows, who is acquainted with grief. He is Yahweh’s servant, come to take away sin, and finally he shows the display of his mighty power by laying down his own life and then taking it up again, destroying the power of death that held us, and calling us out of the grave to new life and one day bodily resurrection. So that when we die, death is not the end, but only a shadow. 1. "Donald Barnhouse was the pastor of Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church when his wife died and left him with young daughters to raise alone. He conducted his own wife's funeral. While driving to that funeral, he realized that he had to say something to his girls to somehow put in perspective for them something with which he himself was already struggling.They stopped at a traffic light. It was a bright day, and the sun was streaming into the car. A truck pulled up next to them and its shadow darkened the inside of the car. Barnhouse turned to his daughters and asked, "Would you rather be hit by the shadow or by the truck?” One of them responded, "Oh, Daddy, that's a silly question! The shadow can't hurt you. I'd rather be hit by a shadow than by a truck.” Then he explained that their mother had died and that it was as if she'd been only hit by a shadow. It was as if Jesus had stepped in the way in her place, and it was He who'd been hit by the truck. 2. If this is true - if Death is only a shadow through Jesus the resurrection and the life, what does believing that mean for today? 3.